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Screencheat is a game about screencheating Exclusive

 Screencheat  is a game about screencheating
October 30, 2014 | By Mike Rose

I was a terrible screencheater back in the day. Everyone said I was amazing at Perfect Dark multiplayer, but what I never admitted was that my eyes were transfixed on the other corners of the screen half the time, tracking my opponents down like a Trojan Horse behind their eyes.

I reckon the team behind Screencheat must have been dirty rotten cheaters in the days of local multiplayer too. Originally dreamt up during the Global Game Jam earlier this year, Screencheat is an experience entirely centered around looking at what everyone else is doing.

"We had the scary theme 'We don't see the world as it is, we see the world as we are,'" recalls developer Nicholas McDonnell of the jam. "After spending ages trying to come up with a cooperative game about information and communication we were thrown for a loop because all our thought experiments resulted in players screencheating."

Thus, Screencheat was the logical output -- a first-person shooter in which everyone is invisible, and must work out where the opposition is by glancing over at the other corners of the screen (you can see everyone else's viewpoints even when you're playing online.)

That original jam version was built by a team of four. When McDonnell decided that he wanted to make it into a full game two months later, he and programmer Justin Whitfort went full pelt out at it. Along with part-time programmer Winston Tang, the samurai Punk team put Screencheat together in eight months.

With such a unique design, I wondered what sort of issues the team found themselves tripping up on, and how they went about solving them.

"This is a wormhole of a question," says the dev. "Other than the obvious level design tropes we establish to allow players to Screencheat with ease, we had one other major issue that we had to deal with -- that being the sheer amount of cognitive load players encounter while they play."

"We knew this was a problem right from the start," McDonnell reasons, "so when we went from prototype to full game we had this in mind throughout development. As such we stripped back all the standard shooter tropes/inputs, players can only switch weapons during spawns and there's no ammo or reloading."

"In a game where everyone is looking at each other's screens, this lets people stay focused and not get distracted."

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